The heat wave continued in Yellowstone today with highs in the 70′s and beautiful weather all day. In Yellowstone birds were out including the Great Blue Heron and numerous others. Other than capturing Old Faithful, The Grand Geyser, Castle Geyser and Great Fountain Geyser on video there was no real plan for the day today. Departure from West Yellowstone was at about 10:30am. The first unplanned stop was merely out of curiosity as to why a bunch of cars were parked on the side of the road and there was a big jam up. There didn’t seem to be any reason at first but there were a bunch of people with telescope like cameras. Those types of cameras often mean wild life in the distance or birds.
It turned out to be a variety of birds along the road and the river in Yellowstone. On the left side of the road across a river when driving toward Madison from West Yellowstone there was an osprey, a Great Blue Heron and another large bird attracting all the attention. All were rather far for great photos unless of course you were one of the lucky ones to have one of the cameras with a monster lens. The first set of photos were of the osprey who was guarding a freshly caught fish and occasionally munching on it. It sat there forever; oblivious to the cameras and the humans glued to them across the river.
The next bird to come into sight was a great blue heron. It started out on the same side of the river as all the photographers and stayed long enough to pose for some rather good shots before getting a little spooked and flying over to the other side of the rive to do some fishing and hike along the opposite side of the river. The great blue heron was quite a graceful bird as it strutted along the bank of the river, pecking small fish out of the water. After walking down to photograph the great blue heron another rather large bird appeared perched on a rock. It was brown with a white belly and an orange beak.
This brown and white bird with the orange beak wasn’t doing much or posing so as to get many good shots so attention turned back to the great blue heron. The heron continued down the bank of the river toward the osprey. Might the two of them get close enough to get them both in the same picture? How cool would that be? Sure enough the heron walked right up to the osprey, looked around, eyed up the fish the osprey was enjoying for lunch and made a move to go for the fish. After a little commotion, the osprey flew away with the fish and each bird suffered nothing more than a few ruffled feathers!
There next stop at the Madison Visitor Center had no elk or any large wildlife but another group of birds in and along the river. These may have been geese. They too were rather unaffected by humans and their cameras though there was only one human there taking photos this time. The sun was out, the grasses and the waters sparkled and made for a dramatic background for pictures of these Yellowstone birds! After an hour of varied shots the next stop was the Old Faithful Geyser Basin to catch Old Faithful, The Grand, Castle and maybe Riverside geysers.
Once up to the Old Faithful geyser basin everything clicked! Old Faithful went off almost immediately upon arrival which seems to be happening a lot recently. The Old Faithful eruption was a good one and it was packed with people! HUGE crowds (there is not a hotel room or campsite available in or near the park right now!). The eruption lasted about 2 minutes and had a beautiful blue sky for a backdrop that made for excellent Old Faithful pictures and video!
After the Old Faithful geyser eruption, the next big scheduled eruption was the Grand Geyser which always puts on a show but can make you wait up to 4 hours or more to see it. The Grand Geyser eruption lasts for between 7 and 10 minutes and can reach around 150 feet high. It is quite a show! The Grand Geyser eruption was estimated at 5:45 today plus or minus two hours. The time between the Old Faithful eruption and the Grand eruption provided the opportunity to snap a few photos of Sawmill Geyser.
When Grand went off right around 5pm, it was a spectacular show! The sky was a mix of blue and white clouds and made for a very scenic background to the Grand Geyser eruption. True to form it lasted for about 8 minutes and amazed everyone around, particularly one family who had just gotten to Yellowstone and not yet been to their hotel room! Thanks to a slightly early Grand Geyser eruption, there was plenty of time to make it to the Castle Geyser eruption estimated for 5:50.
After a few false (but impressive) starts, Castle Geyser let loose in a big way and sent steam and boiling water well over a hundred feet in the air at times. Castle Geyser is another one of the best geysers to watch in the Old Faithful Geyser Basin. It goes off approximately every 14 hours +/- an hour or so. When it erupts it goes for up to 45 minutes. The first part of the eruption is mostly hot water while the latter part consists of a lot more steam.
As luck would have it, Riverside Geyser was supposed to go off around 7:30 and Great Fountain geyser 8 miles away on Firehole Lake Road was estimated to go off at 8:00pm. It might be possible to catch both but after missing the first part of the Great Fountain eruption last night, Great Fountain would be the last target for the night. Riverside geyser is estimated at +/- 30 minutes of the scheduled time while Great Fountain is +/- TWO HOURS. Great Fountain geyser could go off at 6:00pm, 10:00pm or anywhere in between! The sun and the light from the sky would be gone by 8:00pm at the latest.
After waiting for nearly 2 hours Great Fountain geyser finally went off…in the dark. The combination of an earlier and earlier sunset with a partly cloudy sky ensured near total darkness when Great Fountain finally went off. Several people tried to light it up with headlights and flashlights but nothing really worked. In the attempt to get great sunset video of Great Fountain geyser, a great eruption of Riverside Geyser was missed and no eruption of Great Fountain was captured on film! Despite no eruption there was a beautiful sunset. The water in the terraces around Great Fountain combined with the sunset made for beautiful photos and an OK end to the day.